By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw
South Africa’s Rugby World Cup win – by beating England 32-12 – is being seen by many commentators not only as a sporting triumph in its own right, but also as a possible game changer for the country itself, which is still suffering the effects of and hangovers from the apartheid era, which, theoretically at least, came to an end with the election of Nelson Mandela as President in 1994.
The South African Springboks, in their 128-year old history a symbol of white supremacy and dyed-in-the wool tradition in sport, were led to victory for the first time by a black captain, namely, Siyamanthanda Kolisi, who is 28 years old.
Born in a slum and brought up by his grandmother, because his teenage parents could not afford to keep him, when asked whether, as a boy he could ever have dreamed of leading his country to victory in the Rugby World Cup, he replied that he only wondered where his next meal was coming from!
He watched South Africa win the 2007 World Cup from a broken-down tavern and had to train in his boxer shorts because he could not afford the kit.
The 31-man Sprinboks mukti-racial squad, included other blacks.
Seeing Kolisi lift the Rugby World Cup Trophy is regarded by many as a watershed and transcendent moment for the country.
Kolisi thanked the South African people and remarked:
“We love you, South Africa, and we can achieve anything if we work together as one.”
The South African coach, Rassie Erasmus, added:
“We had the privilege of giving people hope, not the burden.”
It has been said a number of times by several observers, including Mandela himself, that sport can bring people together and act as a catalyst for social change.
So, it is to be hoped that wining the 2019 Rugby World Cup will act as an inspiration and stimulus for all those in power in post-apartheid South Africa to bring out about the changes that are still needed to consolidate a better future for all the diverse races that make up this sporting and rainbow nation of 57 million people.
Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’